Making an electromagnet is an easy and fun activity that anyone can do. Teachers and parents can follow a few steps to make an electromagnet for children to use in the classroom or at home. The materials needed are common items that you may have in your home. The main skill needed to build your electromagnet is wrapping wire around a nail. Electromagnets provide a simple way to show children basic science concepts and will allow them to experiment with magnetic properties with your guidance.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- 1.5 volt D battery
- Thin plastic-coated copper wire 36 inches long
- 1 nail, 16 penny iron
- Metal washers
- Wire cutter
- Safety goggles
Wrap the wire, leaving about 10 inches of wire loose at the top end of the nail, and coiling the rest of the wire down to the bottom of the nail. Do not overlap the wire. Make sure you leave about 10 inches of wire on the bottom end. If needed, cut the wire, so that there is about another 10 inches of loose wire at the other end, too.
Strip about 1 inch of the plastic coating from both ends of the wire. Use the wire cutter to remove the coating. Be careful when stripping the wires to avoid the wire springing and cutting your skin.
Attach the wire on the top to one end of a battery and the bottom wire to the other end of the battery. Now the nail turns into a magnet. As long as there is continuous current from the battery flowing through the wire, the magnet will work.
Pick up the washer using the magnet to make sure the electromagnet is working. If the electromagnet is working, try picking up a larger amount of washers. If the electromagnet is not working, make sure t you're making good contact with each end on the battery with the wires. Using two small pieces of duct tape, tape the wire ends that are touching the battery to each end of the battery. This will help make better contact. Make sure the battery you use is fully charged.
Tips and warnings
- Using two D batteries will make the electromagnet stronger, and will allow you to pick up heavier metals. Don’t use any voltage higher than two 1.5 volt batteries.
- If you are a teacher, use the electromagnet as a science experiment. Students can unwrap some of the copper wire from the nail to test what happens to the electromagnet if the wire isn’t making contact.
- Cutting and stripping wire should be done by an adult. Never attach these wires to AC electrical current or higher battery voltage. This can cause the wire to get hot and cause a fire, electrical shock or burn.
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